There are many beautiful New Year's Day rituals across the world, from the fun Romanian custom of Sorcova to the global tradition of New Year's resolutions. Join me to discover the merry Sorcova song and explore 5 powerful steps for crafting good New Year's resolutions — ones that not only truly resonate with your heart but are also more likely to succeed.
Note: Some of the links below are affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you purchase through those links. You can read my full affiliate disclosure here.
SORCOVA: A Fun Romanian Custom
The postcard featured at the beginning of this post is nearly 50 years old, a cherished memory from my grandmother.
It extends a "Happy New Year!" wish in Romanian and depicts a warm living room in a traditional Romanian house, adorned with vibrant, handmade fabrics (still crafted in the countryside).
Opening the card unfolds a charming scene in front of the house: Three young men in festive costumes carol and offer New Year's blessings to a woman at the window.
Regarding the singing part, I can only guess - the card lacks audio, though it boasts a nice 3D effect (see picture below).
Pop-up cards like these were highly popular in Romania in the 1970s; my grandmother preserved some of the prettiest she received. Upon her passing a few years ago, I discovered her collection and brought it to Germany.
Pop-up cards may no longer be in vogue in Romania, but the traditions surrounding the new year persist.
One of the most enchanting is Sorcova: Children gather in groups to carol from house to house, singing special New Year's songs, bestowing blessings, and waving green branches like magical wands (the branches are called "sorcova", just like the custom itself).
This tradition is still widely observed in rural areas.
I was fortunate to experience Sorcova firsthand as a child growing up in a small Romanian town.
My grandparents' house is located on the outskirts of the town – there is more space for and sense of ancestral customs; time passes slowly.
On January 1st, the neighborhood children (myself included) would bundle up against the biting cold and walk, giggling and red-cheeked, through ankle-deep snow from one end of the street to the other to carol for all the neighbors.
The song that has stuck in my memory is "Sorcova, vesela" (Sorcova, the merry). With a tradition so old, there are many versions of this song; the one most familiar to me is a short version, I'm sharing the first verse of the original text in Romanian, followed by my go at translating it into English.
Să trăiţi, să-mbătrâniţi:
Ca un măr, ca un păr,
Ca un fir de trandafir.
Tare ca piatra,
Iute ca săgeata.
Tare ca fierul,
Iute ca oţelul.
La anul si la mulţi ani!"
Sorcova, the merry,
May you live and grow old,
Like an apple tree, like a pear tree,
Like a rose.
Solid as a rock,
Swift as an arrow,
Strong as iron,
Sharp as steel.
For the next year and for many years to come!
I love this nursery rhyme to this day and warble it to myself on New Year's Day (and throughout January).
(If you're interested, you can find fun background information on "Sorcova" - including videos of kids caroling the song - on this website.)
New Year's Resolutions: A GLOBAL Tradition
Doesn't every country and culture have its own beautiful traditions around New Year's? "Sorcova" is just one of Romania's, albeit a fun one (especially for kids).
What all these traditions share is a sense that something new is beginning - it's the chance to leave the past behind and create anew. That's why people around the world extend wishes for joy, good health, wealth, happiness, peace, longevity, and prosperity!
On January 1st you'll hear "Happy New Year!", "Frohes Neues Jahr!", "Buon Anno!", "La Mulţi Ani!", "Bonne Année!" and similar wishes in countless languages.
Can you guess what the most common question after exchanging "Happy New Year!" is?
It's "So, do you have any resolutions?"
I find it quite amusing to inquire after resolutions and hear responses from both skeptics and enthusiasts. 😉
Looking closely: A new year is just a random point in time, and nothing inherently new begins. Resolutions could technically start at any time, like in July or August.
😎 Go ahead and be a rebel by setting resolutions at any point in the year—be it half-year, quarter-year, or whatever time measure you fancy. The five steps below will be helpful regardless.
However, there's a psychological advantage to aligning resolutions with the new year: You'll tap into the collective momentum and shared belief that something new is commencing. This brings a surge of enthusiasm and energy. Don't let this go to waste!
So, the start of a new year is an opportune time to commit to positive change.
5 Steps to GOOD New Year's Resolutions
The mere act of setting resolutions can be motivating. However, for resolutions to serve as a source of YEAR-LONG motivation, they must meet specific criteria.
I mean, people usually don't come up with resolutions just for the fun of brainstorming them. I believe they intend to stick to them. Otherwise, why bother contemplating resolutions?
If you guessed how many resolutions fail, you probably shot too low! Surprisingly, more than 90% of resolutions fail.
The reasons behind these failures are not unexpected:
- Too many or too ambitious goals;
- They might be someone else's wishes imposed on you, not your own;
- Your desire for change might not be significant enough;
- You don't write down your goals and hold yourself accountable;
- Your resolutions with a clear outcome lack actionable steps.
And the most critical reason?
People don't own the WHY behind their resolution; the motivation isn't clear.
This is where the 5 steps below come in handy.
They will guide you to distill GOOD New Year's resolutions.
But, wait: What IS a good New Year's resolution, anyway?
Are the good ones about getting healthier?
Losing 5 pounds?
Eating less cake?
Playing more board games?
I guess you get an inkling of what I'm trying to say.
There is no general definition of a good resolution. Good is what's good for YOU.
Whether it's peace of mind, a fit body, closer friendships, bread-baking excellence, or a fat bank account – the area of your life doesn't matter. What makes good New Year's resolutions is discovering what truly resonates with your heart.
What do you genuinely desire?
Really good New Year's resolutions are the ones so close to your heart that you can't help but jump out of bed each morning, eager to embrace another day toward achieving what you deeply desire. (Exaggerating a tiny bit here, but that's the level of excitement a perfect-for-you resolution should evoke).
Let's explore how you can uncover it.
1. Set the STAGE for heartfelt resolutions.
Before meditation, people often light incense or a candle. The ritual, the light, and the scent contribute to a sense of calmness. Similarly, when setting resolutions, creating a conducive atmosphere is crucial.
It's about engaging in activities that help you connect with the beauty of your inner world, reducing the noise of everyday life. This could involve listening to soulful music, taking a nature walk, enjoying a bath, meditating, journaling, or reading the wise words of a cherished author.
Before contemplating my wishes for the new year, I like to read something that reminds me of what truly matters in life, centered on the fact that our lives are so precious - and oh so finite!
Holly Butcher's open letter to the world, written before she passed away of cancer at age 27, puts me in the right state of mind for crafting meaningful resolutions.
Her words emphasize why I take the time to set intentions – because life, MY LIFE, is valuable and unique, passing by in a flash. I want to live it intentionally, consciously filling it with people, things, and experiences I cherish.
So, to discover your heartfelt wishes for the new year, seek activities that help quiet your mind. Engage in something that elevates your energy, or, like me, read something that reminds you of the brevity of life and the significance of each day (and year!).
Don't skip this - I think it's the most important step!
📘 Fun Book
If you really have no idea where to start and how to get yourself into that "I can do this! I'm sooo ready for resolutions!" mood, then a light, cute, heartwarming read like Squirrel's New Year's Resolution by Pat Miller might be just what you need.
2. Look at the LESSONS this year has taught you.
Now that you're in the right state of mind, it's time to craft resolutions that truly matter to you.
Begin by reflecting on the past year and examining the lessons it brought.
These 30 fun end-of-year reflection questions can help you pinpoint areas for change or improvement. Your list might include up to 10 items (but fewer is better; you can't tackle too much at once.).
Contemplating the experiences and outcomes of the past year allows you to identify aspects worth changing, improving, or preserving.
Yes, PRESERVING a habit can be a great New Year's resolution!
For instance, last year, I decided to consume less news. Reflecting on my past year, I recognized this change had such a big (and positive) impact on my well-being that I intend to carry it into the new year.
Side note: If you had a crappy year with many shortcomings and unfulfilled intentions (some years don't skimp on that, right?), find solace in Cleo Wade's poem "It is okay". It will help you let go more easily.
3. Welcoming MORE OF something particular.
Ok, you've gathered some New Year's wishes based on last year's lessons, now it's time to brainstorm if you have any unique life wishes that you might want to pursue in the upcoming year.
Is there anything you've always wanted to do but never dared to? Or had time for? Maybe you always wanted to learn how to sing, run a half marathon, or volunteer in an animal shelter.
These are the special wishes that should also enter your list of good New Year's resolutions. Add up to 10 items that represent what you want to welcome into your life (again, fewer is better to not overburden your new year with new things to tackle).
Of course, the items on this list can be based on some of last year’s lessons, but they can also represent unique wishes.
On the Cup of Jo blog, I discovered a fun way of doing resolutions that is similar to this step here. It's a Less-of-this/More-of-this list for the new year! Isn't this exciting - and easy?
4. Boil it down to a CORE INTENTION or ONE WORD.
💡 Intentions vs Resolutions 💡
Intentions and resolutions are related concepts, but they do differ in some points:
AN INTENTION often refers to a broader, more general mindset or direction that you aim to follow.
For example, intentions are often associated with personal growth or mindfulness.
A RESOLUTION is more specific and concrete, involving a clear goal, a defined endpoint, or a measurable outcome. You are more likely to achieve a resolution if you create an action plan (actionable steps) for it.
This shows that your goal doesn't always have to manifest as a measurable commitment (AKA resolution); it can also take the form of an intention intended to shape your state of mind.
My number one intention for this year would have to be ‘Take time for yourself’. I have rephrased it into a positive reminder that I will affirm every day:
"I allow myself to take the breaks I need for resting, unwinding, and recharging my batteries."
Another impactful way to get to the heart of your desires for the new year is to boil the field of possibilities down to one single word. I discovered this idea, too, on the Cup of Jo blog.
This is so, so cool. If you're pressed for time or just not in the mood for steps 2-4, skip them and choose one word that reflects your dearest wish for the next year.
My word would have to be: Mindfulness.
5. Time for ACTION!
If you've come this far, you can be proud of yourself.
By now, you should either have a list of up to 20 good New Year's resolutions, an intention or a positive reminder, or a single word representing your most desired wish for the upcoming year.
Now it's time to take these resolutions (intentions, positive reminders, or the single word) and think about how you can create actionable steps for them in your daily life.
Create Actionable Steps
If you get stuck in the phase of just having a theoretical resolution without an idea of how you can put it into practice – that is, how you can incorporate the change it requires into your daily life – your resolution will likely fall into the group of the more than 90% of resolutions that fail.
By definition, intentions or positive reminders don't necessarily need to be broken down into actionable steps, as they primarily relate to a state of mind or being. However, creating specific action items for intentions can enhance the likelihood of turning them into reality.
For instance, I could keep my mindfulness intention from step 4 as a pure intention. I might aim to remind myself daily of it; the simple act of reminding myself several times a day about being more mindful is likely to bring pockets of peace and more calm to my days.
To further increase this likelihood, I can develop actionable steps for this intention. Let's see how this would work.
Based on my mindfulness intention mentioned above, let's make an example of how I could turn this into action items.
First, I consider how much time I could set aside each day to make this resolution happen (15 minutes). Then I ponder what would benefit me most.
My results: 5 minutes of sitting in silence each morning, plus 10 minutes of giving my mind a break each afternoon (with concrete examples of what I could do, for example, taking a short walk, or just looking out the window and letting my mind rest).
You should make it as concrete as possible, especially at the beginning when you're incorporating new habits into your daily life.
My example with detailed steps would read:
- Sit each morning before work for 5 minutes in complete silence, either meditating or saying affirmations.
- Have each afternoon between 3 pm and 5 pm a 10-minute mindful break to just have a walk in silence or sit with a cup of tea and do nothing (other than look out the window).
The more concrete you make your action items, the easier it will be to integrate them into your routine.
Use an Activity Tracking Tool
I love using activity tracker apps and journals! They're super helpful to see how far I've come in weeks or months.
On those days when I'm feeling low on motivation, checking out my progress data cheers me up. It's like a little pat on the back. "See, you DID all of this already!"
Plus, these tools help me spot patterns in my habits – the good and not-so-good ones – so I can do something about them (either welcoming more of something or cutting back on it).
Streaks (Apple) or HabitNow (Google) are two great apps that allow you to set goals and track your habit-building. If you're looking for more app options, you can explore recommendations on TMETRIC or digitaltrends.
When it comes to goal-tracking journals, Amazon offers a great variety. Here are two that I can recommend, specifically designed for New Year's resolutions:
The 5 Steps in a Nutshell
Coming up with a good New Year's resolution isn't rocket science. The key is to align them with your heartfelt wishes and desires – that's the secret to sticking to them.
- Discover what your heart and soul truly desire by creating a peaceful space. Take your time, sit with your thoughts, maybe light a candle or incense, and enjoy a cup of tea.
- Reflect on the past year. Is there anything you wish to change or keep?
- Unearth those lifelong dreams; perhaps the new year is their time to shine.
- Look at everything you've gathered. Consider boiling it down to one core intention or wish – a general direction that sums it all up.
- Now, the last step: break your resolutions into actionable bite-sized steps for your daily life. Remember, each little action counts.
Voila! You've mastered the art of creating good resolutions!
I hope you're now super excited to grab your notebook and jot down every itty-bitty change that could possibly make you more content and happier.
NEXT: Turn those scribbles into reality! :)))
What are your fun New Year's traditions? Do you set intentions?
Un an nou fericit! Happy New Year, everyone! 🎉